I remember taking the help of my friend to create my first blog on Blogspot. I didn’t know how to start a blog. This was almost a decade ago. There must be so many like me who don’t know that right now.
This guide is for them, and for those who know it but are confused. This guide will give you a lot of clarity on that.
I have created this guide to be relevant even 10 years from now, I’ll obviously keep this guide up to date. But what I meant to say is, a lot of this will make sense years from now.
Without further bragging about this guide, let me take you to the guide itself.
For the ease of your navigation, feel free to jump to a specific section from the menu below.
Understanding the significance of a blog
If you’ve landed here out of curiosity and don’t believe in the authenticity of blogging, please read this section completely.
I assume you must have read a lot about blogging and how you can make money online. Sure, blogging is one of the ways you can make money online, but it’s more than that.
It’s a responsibility. As a blogger, you will be reaching hundreds of thousands of people. As a blogger myself, I want to bring you on the same page as I am.
It’s important to understand how blogging can change your life because it changed mine. I remember being materialistic & running behind the materialistic things like money & fame. But the process itself has changed me.
Sure, I totally understand, nothing other than money will pay the bills, but if you have money as a primary motivation, all you will get is money, that too only if you provide value.
I’m a huge believer in providing value, and every time I would create something & I would see the huge gap caused due to lack of value.
And that was I was focusing on making money out of that blog post. All my efforts were towards the money. As I said above, money shouldn’t be the primary goal.
If you can put money to the back seat, this post is for you.
I will take this post right from the beginning, you can skip irrelevant sections and jump to the relevant ones.
Understanding the Ecosystem of a Blog
I know, the technicalities are way too overwhelming. You need to understand a couple of things before you jump in.
I’ve listed a couple of fancy terms that you will be coming across very often.
#1 Domain name
The digital address of your blog. The location where servers will find all webpages of your blog. Relate the domain name as the physical address of your house.
#2 Web hosting space
The remote location where all the files related to your blog resides. Imagine this as the plot you build your house upon.
The actual webpage, your blog. The website is a collection of webpages. This is the actual house you built on a plot and has an address. It is important to understand the difference between the blog & website. All blogs can have a website, but not all websites will have a blog.
#4 Content Management System (CMS)
In this post, we’re going to be dealing with WordPress as our CMS. Content management systems are nothing but middlemen that help you build your website/blog. It’s just the interface between the front end & the backend. It lies between what your target audience sees and what’s happens behind the curtains.
#5 Subdomains & Subdirectories
Subdomains are a separate entity of the primary domain, and depending on the purpose it’s usage varies. By default, ‘www’ is a subdomain. At the time of installation, you will be asked if you want to install WordPress with or without the ‘www’ subdomain.
See a subdomain as a separate department in a college. As in, College is the primary domain, and the computer science department is the subdomain. It’s like a separate entity but under the primary domain.
Subdirectories or sub-folder is like a subset of the primary domain. It directly comes under the primary domain.
You must’ve come across certain domains that have a blog at the subdomain and some have it as a subfolder. As in blog.example.com and example.com/blog are two different things.
Niche is the most cliche word you will hear in the blogging industry. Niche is the topic you write about on your blog. For example, I write about blogging, WordPress & make money only on Btricks.
Step 1: Pick a perfect niche for your blog
Niche is the most elementary aspect you should have a clear idea about. If you’re not clear with the niche, and you’ve directly jumped right in, you’re gonna regret that decision. I’ve purposefully used the most elementary and not one of the most elementary. It’s because, nothing is more important than choosing the niche, everything else depends on this.
The reason why I’m saying this because I have wasted a lot of years of my life chasing the wrong niche. You should choose a niche you can practice daily. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a beginner who knows nothing other than making sweet corn soup.
Do you see how many searches are made every month? That’s one topic. I can write at least 10-15 posts targeting this single keyword, even though I’m not a food blogger or an expert.
The trick is to find that one thing you are passionate about.
This takes me to the second part of this story. What if you don’t know what you’re passionate about?
Well, I’m not the best person to help you figure that out, but I can lead you to questions that can help you figure it out by yourself.
To all those who ask me “How to start a blog when I don’t know what I’m passionate about?”, think of it this way, there is a difference between knowing a path, and walking a path. Whenever you are exploring options to blog about, ask yourself this question, “Can I talk about this topic for the rest of my life?” if the answer is no even for a microsecond, don’t pick that niche.
I personally own 10 blogs of different niches, of these only 3 can have my active attention, so the 7 blogs are sitting unattended on the server. In fact, one of the blogs is on photography, and I’m super passionate about photography. Since I cannot do photography every day, I’m not actively posting on the blog.
The trick is to pick a niche that you can work on every single day for a very long time. It takes at least a year for a blog to become sustainable, that if you do it right & consistently.
I believe building a brand requires you to focus on one thing at a time. This doesn’t mean, I don’t engage with the blog, I do. But not of course not actively.
There’s this crazy element called involvement, which does the heaviest lifting of coming up great content, consistently. If you keep switching the boats, the involvements get hampered & you land nowhere.
To begin with, let me tell you the top-performing niches that are both easy to pursue and highly profitable.
Best niches to start a blog (along with domain name ideas)
I understand it is difficult to choose a niche and more often than not beginners tend to refer the web to find what’s trending in the industry and choose one of them.
I think it’s both right & wrong approach. Right! Because it is always better to see what people are looking for rather than wasting time & effort.
Wrong because it takes away that one chance of finding your passion for a particular subject. Also, I don’t want you to rely on the web to figure out what’s best for you. Before you check the web, I have a list of top-performing niches that you can use, or I’d say consider for your blog.
So here are some top-performing niche.
#1 Health & fitness: A lot of people are finally focusing on health. A healthy mind cannot live inside of an unhealthy body. If you think you can talk about health & fitness every single day, in fact, practice everything you are going to say for a very long time, then this niche is for you.
There’s a lot of potential both in terms of growth as a brand & monetization, especially brand deals, courses, paid content & affiliates.
Available domains: healthistical.com, thegymster.com
#2 Travel: Though there’s the pandemic, travel is going to get back on track. Travel is going to get a huge boost in coming times, the wanderlust element is increasing like crazy. If you want to be a travel influencer, travel the world, a digital nomad, this niche is for you.
Again, huge potential in terms of growth as a brand and monetization. You can have a travel agency, affiliates, sponsored travels to promote places/events, and more.
Available domains: seehike.com, themapster.com, traveltoto.com
#3 Technology: With the pandemic slowly becoming a part of our evolution, more and more people & businesses are going to rely on technology for their day-to-day lives. Technology niche is a huge universe in itself. You can go as deep as you want to target a highly specific audience and have better traction.
Growth opportunities are through the roof. Monetization opportunities can be ads, affiliates, accessories, and more.
Available domains: techlaroto.com, techboxjunkie.com, talkingtechwith <yourname>.com can also be a great domain name.
#4 Fashion & Beauty: In the era of Instagram, it’s uncommon to not think of fashion and not take it seriously. You and I want to look good, if you are that fashion guru who can make anyone look awesome by anything in the wardrobe, this niche is for you.
Your mind will blow away how huge this space is. If you do the work right, you’d get to work with global fashion brands for beginners. You can even start your own fashion brand selling apparel, skincare & more.
Available domains: thefashionmogul.com, fashionablemongers.com, fashionfascicle.com
#5 Legal: With more and more businesses coming to limelight, it is more important than ever to have every aspect of businesses legalized. Apart from businesses, there a huge gap in awareness of legalities among the public. People aren’t aware of their own legal rights, that’s your market.
Growth opportunities are huge, the job will land humongous clients in your bag. Ads & consulting will pay you huge, I’m not sure how affiliates work here.
Available domains: lawvenger.com (like the Law Avenger), thelawnger.com (as in The Law and Generic Elementary Rights)
There are a ton of niches you can choose from. If I list them all here, the context of this post would change😜
Best practices for choosing a niche
- Consider your education before picking up the niche. If you’ve had formal education in fashion designing, a fashion blog is the best thing you can begin with. You already have the basics & theory ready, all you need to learn is the basics of blogging.
- Consider your passion for the subject. Like I’m passionate about photography, I’ve not had any formal education in photography, but I still have a blog. I share my experience & knowledge of photography on the blog.
Step 2: Pick a domain name for your blog
I have listed only a handful number of niches you can begin with. If you have any other niche, to begin with, read this section aloud.
Your domain name is the primary address where people would be finding your work, see it as a residential address to your blog. Also, it’s how the world is gonna recognize you.
Be choosy while you pick a domain. I wish I had someone to tell me this before I began my journey.
So here’s what you have to keep in my while registering a domain for your blog:
- Include the niche in the domain name: See how I have the niche included in all the available domains? Yeah, that helps in the long run. When someone who is an absolute beginner, and searches for “Best blog on fashion” or “Best fashion blogs”, you want to land in the SERPs for this search term.
- Keep it short: It’s obvious. It’s facebook.com and not chatwithyourfriendsonfacebook.com. It is so much easier to read the brand name. The absence of spaces makes a mess. Aim for 10-12 characters, excluding the domain extension (.com, .in, etc)
- Aim for .com: The most popular extension amongst all domain extensions. There’s no significant rule in the textbook that all blogs should be a .com only. It’s like social media is great, but it doesn’t mean you should use it mandatorily. If .com isn’t available, either change the domain name or the extension.
- Avoid special characters: Hyphens are often misunderstood as spam, though you don’t have that intention. Avoid it if possible. If you have to use, make sure you have it in a position where people would find it obvious, like, yeah the hyphen makes the domain name more readable.
- Choose subfolder (sub-directories): When in the dilemma of subfolder vs subdomain, consider subfolder. The main reason being the fact that a sub-domain has a separate folder altogether (not under the root folder of the domain). On the other hand, a subfolder falls directly under the root folder of the domain. If you worry about the link worthiness of your content, place it in a subfolder (example.com/blog) and not the subdomain (blog.example.com). You can find the explanation from John Muller here.
That a little bit on some of the best practices for domain names for your blog.
Let’s move on to the registration part.
Step 3: Register domain name for your blog
You now have a clear understanding of the importance of blogging & the significance of easy to remember domain name. Let me show you how you can register a domain for a year at a cost of a large Starbucks coffee, with top-notch security & privacy.
I use (& recommend) Google Domains to register all your domains. It costs around $12 a year for basic .com domains. Different domain extensions have different prices.
But our focus is a .com, so it’s gonna cost your around $12 (without aftermarket)
Let me walk you through the registration process.
For the sake of this example, I’ll register a tech blog (don’t worry I won’t buy it, you can register it if you want 😂)
Step 1: Find an available domain
If you have never booked a domain on Google domains, you’d be asked to search for a domain. Simply enter the domain name you have in mind and hit enter/return.
Google domain will show the availability of the domain. In this example, I have already found the domain I want to register.
Step 2: Add to cart & proceed with the purchase
Click add to cart and got to your cart, to proceed with the payment. I have two domains in my cart, hence the price is different. In your case, it will be as per the domain you have selected.
Note: Keep the privacy protection on, since that will ensure your whois data is not made public. If you turn it off, you will get a lot of cold calls from third-party companies. Google domains provide this privacy for free, other domain registrars charge $2-$3 a year.
You will be asked to enter the contact information (part of the registration process)
Step 3: Make the payment
Once you click buy and authenticate the payment, the domain will be yours. Now leave the domain as such, let’s register the web hosting & the point it to the web hosting location.
Step 4: Register web hosting for your blog
I have used Bluehost since the beginning of my career & now I have switched to Site Ground. Both are recommended by WordPress itself. I switched to experience Site Ground, nothing wrong with Bluehost. Furthermore, Site Ground is completely hosted on Google Cloud Platform. No matter which plans you choose, it will be hosted on the Google Cloud platform via Site Ground.
Also, find some time and check out the pricing for Google Cloud Platform, you will realize how amazingly affordable Site Ground plans are.
For the sake of this tutorial, I will be taking SiteGround as an example. You can choose any other web hosting provider like Bluehost, Hostgator, Dreamhost. Don’t consider GoDaddy, I have a really bad experience with it.
Let’s register a web hosting plan with SiteGround.
Step 1: Find the pricing page
Go to Site Ground home page > Hosting > WordPress Hosting.
Step 2: Choose a plan as per your requirement
If you’re just starting out, you wouldn’t need a big space to host your website. I’d recommend choosing the StartUp plan, to begin with. $4 per month is nothing, we waste more money on useless things. Investing in this will have a ripple effect.
If you have more requirements, you can opt for higher plans accordingly. I have purchased the GoGeek plan since I have multiple blogs to manage.
To proceed with the payment, click on the Get Plan button.
Step 3: Choose a Domain
You will be asked to buy a domain, you need to skip this since we have already registered the domain on Google Domains. Here, choose “I already have a domain”
Now, enter the domain you have registered, in this example, I will enter techlaroto.com here and ‘Proceed‘
Step 4: Fill in the contact information
You will need to fill the form asking your contact information and don’t worry, this will only for security purposes, this is the proof that you own the web hosting space.
Once you fill-up the form, you just have to make the payment. Since I’ve already made the payment, this step isn’t applicable to this guide.
But don’t worry, the immediate next step is the payment.
- In case you cannot make the payment, that’s because you don’t have a credit card or an international shopping enabled debit card. If you don’t have a credit card, you can use a debit card to make this purchase. Make sure the international shopping is enabled. This will ensure you have a successful purchase of this plan.
- In purchase information, choose the data center wisely. Think who’s your target audience and what’s the primary geolocation that you want to target. My primary target audience is India, so I had chosen a data center in Asia – Singapore.
You will get the confirmation email from Site Ground, you will have the receipt of your purchase. Make sure you have the username & password either saved (better avoid) or remember it.
You will need to login to the site tools to install WordPress.
But before you install WordPress, let’s point the domain to your web hosting space.
Step 5: Pointing DNS to Web Hosting Server
You’ll realize how simple things are. I’ve used Bluehost (India) and I must admit, everything was pretty complex. Especially now that I’m using Site Ground.
Let me show simple it is to point the domain to Site Ground.
Step 1: Copy the DNS of Site Ground
DNS stands for Domain Name Server. It is the identifier the domain registrar uses to point the domain to the web hosting space. This is required when you do not register a domain on the web hosting space. Think of it as a compass. It shows you the right direction, it ‘points’ you in the right direction.
Similarly, the DNS points the incoming requests to the location where your blog’s files reside – the web hosting server.
You will have to do this for all the domains (in case you do) you buy in the future. Especially if you buy on third party domain registrars, like Google Domains.
Relax, I’ll not only make it sound easy, but I’ll also actually make it easy.
Let’s copy the DNS record we need to point ‘to’ – basically the ‘To’ address.
- Go to Site Tools
- In the dashboard section, you will see an IP and Name Server section.
- Copy the two details mentioned under Name Servers. Ignore what’s mentioned in the brackets. DO NOT copy that.
Step 2: Update the name records in Google Domains
- Login to Google Domains
- Click on the domain that you need to transfer. By default, you will be under the ‘My Domains’ section.
- Click on DNS on the left navigation menu.
- Click on the User custom name servers radio button.
- Click Edit
- Click Save once you paste the two DNS records we copied in the previous step.
Once you have this, it ideally takes 48-72 hours for the domain to propagate, but I’ve never had to wait for more than an hour or two for the domain to point to my web hosting space.
Assuming, you’ve pointed it right, let us list the domain on Site Ground.
Step 3: List existing domain in Site Ground web hosting plan
For this step, you will have to open your Site Ground account (you will have access to two different entities, one is account and one is site tools)
- Navigate to Site Ground account
- Click on Website in the top menu
- Click on New Website Button in the top right
- Click Select under Existing Domain
- Enter the domain name in the text box given and then click Continue. You will be prompted that you should have access to the domain. You can ignore it and click Continue again. You see that message just because you haven’t registered the domain on Site Ground.
- Next, you will see options to add a new website (i.e. install WordPress) you can click on ‘Skip & Create empty site‘ for now, as I will covering Installing & setting up WordPress in the next section.
- You will be asked to opt for optional security package named, ‘SG Site Scanner‘, you can skip that and click ‘Finish‘. I have a free alternative for WordPress security. I mean, it does the thing to a certain extent.
That’s it, you have successfully listed the domain to your web hosting plan or web hosting space.
Step 6: Installing & setting up WordPress for your blog
Now that we have successfully pointed the domain & listed it perfectly, let us install WordPress & set it up for our blog.
- Login to Site Ground account
- Click on Websites
- Find the domain & click on the Site Tools button
- Click on WordPress » Install & Manage in the left-hand navigation
- Depending on your requirement, you can either select WordPress or WordPress + WooCommerce. For the sake of this example, we will go with the WordPress option, you can install & setup WooCommerce anytime later.
- Click Select under WordPress. And fill up the username and password. Leave everything as it is. DO NOT touch anything other than username & password. Especially the installation path. Leave it default. You can customize the language of the WordPress interface. You can choose the language you understand the best.
Note: Leave the multisite WordPress checkbox unchecked unless you want multisite functionality. If you don’t know anything about it, leave it unchecked, I’ll publish a separate blog post for that.
- Click Install and let the process take its time to finish and wait until you get the message as shown below.
- Click on the Admin Panel button and the WordPress starter page will load. Don’t worry, this page will guide you through the installation processes and let you install optional plugins. Click ‘Start Now’
- You will be prompted to choose themes for your blog. These themes are free so you can select any theme. You can customize the theme any later after this step. Once you choose the theme, click ‘Continue’.
- Next, you will be asked to install optional plugins that are free. You can select or deselect any plugins you want. I’d recommend not install any plugins at this moment.
- Click the ‘Continue’ button and then you will again choose specialized plugins. Here select Optimize for SEO option, which is a plugin from Yoast. It’s a free and awesome SEO plugin for beginners. Then click the ‘Complete’ button.
And done! You just installed WordPress for your blog successfully. You will see this message while WordPress is being installed on the web hosting space.
Once the installation is done. You will see the congratulations message as shown below.
Everything is done, and now you are all set to rock’n’roll. Let customize WordPress and setup for your first blog post.
Step 7: Customizing WordPress for your blog
WordPress is known for the customization it provides. You can literally make any feature-packed website in a matter of days. WordPress is a framework that can be leveraged to create stunning websites.
And the best part? It’s absolutely free.
Yes, WordPress is an open-source program and will forever be. Did you notice any payment window while we installed WordPress on our web hosting space?
No right? That’s because it’s free.
I’m telling this because we will be exploring the customizing options, and I want you to know this. We get so much for free.
With that said, let’s customize the WordPress.
WordPress is very vast, I have specific guides to do specific things. In this guide, we will see only the customizing part of themes & plugins, since only those are significant as of now.
Customizing WordPress themes
Go to your dashboard (yourdomainname.com/wp-admin) in your left-hand navigation menu, find Appearance » Themes
In the manage themes window, you will find all the themes you have installed. By default, ‘twenty twenty’ theme will be installed. This is a free theme from WordPress itself.
Let’s install a new theme for the blog.
In the same window click on the ‘Add New‘ button. You can even click on the plus icon in the theme library (as highlighted).
This will open the themes library. All the themes listed here are absolutely free. Of course, there are paid upgrades that you can opt once you get used to the theme and need an upgrade.
You can browse themes in the featured section or use the feature filter to find the best theme for your blog. The choices are endless on WordPress library.
For now, let’s customize the theme we have by default, twenty twenty.
Since I have not installed this theme, the button is Activate, for installed & active themes, the button would be ‘Customize’ as shown below.
Click ‘Customize’ and customizer window will show up as shown below.
You can explore each option available in the customizer window. The menu depends on the theme you have installed.
If you are absolutely new to WordPress, I’d recommend you explore WordPress first. Just roam around and get comfortable here. This is the space you will be spending the most time on.
Editing theme code
At times, you may need to edit a specific part of the theme for a specific purpose. Like, adding AdSense code, or Google Analytics code, or any other verification codes.
Go to Appearance » Theme editor
Here, you can find various files associated with your theme on the right-hand navigation menu. Don’t get overwhelmed, the code you copy will have detailed instructions of where you need to paste the code.
You can explore everything but be cautious here, you can easily mess here and have no idea what went wrong. Make sure, you don’t mess here.
Generally speaking, you will not need any other files other than header.php & functions.php.
Changing site name
By default, WordPress will not have any name or WordPress site as the name of the site. We need to change it. Let me show you how.
Step 1: Navigate to Appearance » Customize
Step 2: Click on Site Identity
Step 3: Update the Site title with the blog name.
Step 4: Click the ‘Publish’ button at the top.
Best practices while customizing themes for beginners
- Use local WordPress setup to test changes
- Unless unavoidable, do not mess with the code
- Work on speeding your webpages on mobile
- Customization shouldn’t affect accessibility
- If at all you need to work with the code, leave relevant comments for future reference.
- Delete unwanted themes, or if you have them as a backup, keep it up to date.
That was a little bit, a 100k feet overview of how to customize WordPress themes. I know this is the tip of an iceberg, but that is what required at the beginning.
Let’s get to the fun part. The Plugins.
Customizing WordPress with Plugins
One of the best things about WordPress is the plugins.
See the number of plugins the library has. Over 56k plugins. Plugins are basically extensions of your website. You can extend the functionality of your website/blog by installing relevant plugins.
Install WordPress plugins on your blog
Step 1: Hover on the Plugins menu » Add new
Step 2: Search for new plugins or installed from the recommended list by WordPress
Search for plugins in the search box on the left or install it from the filter on the right. Don’t worry about the plugins to install in the beginning, I’ll take this in the next section. But for now, I will show how to install and activate plugins on WordPress.
Step 3: Click on the ‘Install Now’ button on the plugin you want to install
Step 4: Click on the ‘Activate’ button to activate the plugin
I installed this plugin since I wanted to redirect the existing URL to the newer ones. This is to ensure that whoever visits the older version of the URL doesn’t end up not finding what they were looking for, i.e. a 404 page.
Once you activate the plugin, the Installed plugin window will open. The installation process ends here, and this is how you can install any plugin for your blog.
Now let me share the recommended plugins that you should install on your fresh WordPress copy.
- Yoast SEO: This plugin will manage all the SEO for your blog, especially if you are a beginner. This tool rates your blog posts based on SEO quality and readability score since both are required for ranking high on Google search, at least to be eligible, if not directly rank.
- Elementor Page builder: Create awesome pages using this plugin. The customizer is a live drag & drop page builder, wherein you can see the changes live before you can publish it online. You can get as creative as you want since you can edit and customize almost every element of a webpage. This comes handy once you install a third party theme either the WordPress library or from external theme sources.
- Health Check & Troubleshooting: As the name suggests, the plugin will continuously keep track of errors & misconfigurations on your installed WordPress copy. The tool will list all the errors in the debug section so that you can share that information with the relevant team member, or if you are a lone ranger, you’d have everything in one place.
- Broken Link Checker: This tool is highly important for your blog, especially if you are an affiliate marketer and link to a lot of external pages. Broken links are any links that end up on a 404 page. This tool checks for broken links across the blog and lists it in one place so that you can edit & update it by adding relevant links.
- UpDraft plus: This tool takes a backup of all the files on the blog and saves on remote locations such as your Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon, Dropbox, or FTP. This ensures that you have a full backup of your hard work so that you can restore it in case of a mishap.
- Classic Editor: If you are new to WordPress, you might get used to the Gutenberg block editor. Since I’m using WordPress since the stone age of the tool, I don’t like Gutenberg, the block editor sucks. But I don’t want to leave a dent on your brain. Use the Gutenberg block editor, but if you don’t like, you know what plugin to use.
These are some plugins you need as an absolute beginner, as you progress further and as per your need you can install any plugin anytime.
Now that your WordPress copy is ready to use, let’s dig some gold by creating your first blog post.
Step 8: Creating the first post for your blog
Since we have moved ahead by installing the default theme for your blog, you’d have a couple of blog posts. Let’s first delete that.
Step 1: Navigate to Posts » All posts
Once the posts window loads, select the post you want to delete, in your case the post you need to delete the post titled “Hello World”
Step 2: Select the post by clicking on the checkbox against the post title
Step 3: Move the post to trash
From the dropdown highlighted in the above screenshot, select move to trash option to delete the post. Your deleted posts will stay in the trash until you delete it permanently from there. You can restore the posts, just in case you change your mind. You can delete all the dummy posts by following the same steps mentioned above. You can also edit one of those posts and create your first post out of that. However, I’d suggest creating a new post from scratch so that you can practice the basics right.
Now that we have deleted all the dummy posts, we can get started with creating a new post from scratch.
Let me show you how you can create a new post for your blog.
Navigate to Posts » Add new
You can also add new posts from the All Posts page
Either way, click that Add New button and you will see the editor page in the next screen. You can write your blog post in that space. I can’t tell you what you write, but I can tell you how to write your blog posts – the first, so on and so forth.
Best practices for writing a blog post
I’ve wasted years to learn this hard way. I’ve found things that do not work if you want to succeed as a blogger. So here are things that work and that doesn’t.
1. Write for the users & not for the search engines
I began with writing as a parasite. My first blog was a complete copy-paste. I was totally newbie, no idea about what blogging is, not anymore.
I exactly know how to write a perfect blog post. I can write a decent blog post in 2-3 hours, but it took 7 years to make this happen.
So, how to write for users and not for search engines?
First, begin with knowing your audience. You can’t come up with content ideas without understanding whom are you creating it for.
How to pick a niche? We’ve already talked about that above.
Second, understand the need of your target audience. Already, there is a lot of noise, there’s no point in adding more noise to it.
Therefore, spend enough time researching and spend even more time creating epic content. It’s better to be late, than not arrive at all.
To find what your target audience needs, hang out where they do, keep an eye on forums, influencers & groups where they post their problems. If you already have a solution, give them the solution then & there else, get inspired, and create content to solve that problem.
There’s this basic etiquette for researching the topics to blog about. You can’t assume that your target audience knows everything. Even if it’s as basic as turning on a computer, you should explain it. There are still so many people who can’t use a computer efficiently as you.
I’ve made this mistake of taking the audience for granted and because of this, one of my blogs remained invisible for years.
2. Never write about things you haven’t practiced
I get it. You are aware of the potential of a niche, let’s say health & fitness. Especially after this pandemic, more and more people will have a need to maintain their health.
If you are interested in blogging about health & fitness, it is very important to blog only about those topics that practice every single day, at least more often than everything.
I’ve tried penetrating into a lot of territories. I’m obsessed with photography, I even have a blog about it. But since I’m unable to actively do photography every single day, I don’t feel eligible to blog about it.
Sure, I have all the basics right, and I even have posted about it, I can’t dig deeper than this. It’s not that I totally can’t, but the content I create won’t be effective and more importantly, it won’t be original.
For this blog, I’ve posted so much content that I don’t practice. There was a time when I had simply rewrite existing content just for the sake of posting it on my blog, and that’s absolutely wrong. Soon after I realized, I removed all that and have started with a clean slate.
That’s like, in order to have a great hairstyle, I had to get rid of unwanted & untidy hair.
And now, everything I’m posting or planning to post will be absolutely original, effective and it will resonate really well.
3. Take care of basic SEO
SEO is the bright saturated color that will make you visible in the pool of blogs. In a nutshell, SEO is the best practice you abide by in order to gain visibility on search engines.
Did you know that search results on the first page get almost 92% of clicks? the first 3 results get 75% and 32% go to #1 search result.
SEO is a huge industry within itself, I will be creating more posts on SEO but for now, let me share basics of SEO.
There are 3 types of SEO:
- On-page SEO: SEO techniques that you apply on individual pages like home page, individual blog posts, etc. On-page SEO techniques include keyword optimization, title & meta tags optimization, interlinks, backlinks, and more.
- Off-Page SEO: Off-page SEO is every move you make in order to bring traffic to your blog. It can be a guest post, a YouTube video, or simply a tweet. Google has laid a lot of weight on referral traffic, one of the most prominent sources of referral traffic is backlinks, and backlinks happens to be the number one ranking factor by Google Algorithm.
- On-Site SEO: This is the best practice you apply across your blog. This is generally a one-time application. Here you can describe meta tags for the whole blog, i.e. the homepage SEO, creating & submitting sitemaps, setting up robots.txt, etc. Setting up webmaster tools like Google search console & Webmaster tools is also a very important step you should perform as part of On-Site SEO.
That’s a very basic overview of search engine optimization and you can find more articles on SEO here.
4. Don’t get obsessed with numbers
Since you are beginning your serious business online, it is obvious that you will land up on a lot of numbers. Especially if Google Analytics is the primary source of data analytics.
I want you to know that don’t get obsessed with the numbers, especially in the beginning. You’ll fall prey to the endless loop of numbers. Numbers are infinite, that’s never-ending.
There’s no point in checking the analytics every other day rather than focusing on creating and promoting your content, which is more important.
Sure, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. But getting obsessed with numbers and not create content is a suicide.
5. You don’t have to post daily
I’ve wasted years doing this. I got over-burdened and ended up doing nothing when there was a chance of doing ‘something’ for the day.
Create a calendar and make sure you finish it on time. Posting daily isn’t important but what’s more important is posting quality content. Content that resonates and solves problems. Backlinko, one of the best blogs on SEO has less than 50 posts since it’s inception.
6. Write evergreen content
You get one chance to leave an impact. A lot of blogs are competition to take the top spot on Google. But once you secure that position, it takes a significantly awesome post to replace you.
So how to create irreplaceable content?
Create evergreen content. Evergreen content not only lasts longer but you have more time to create better content once the existing posts start ranking.
Evergreen content is something that hardly changes, for example, the way tie a tie will remain same for decades to come. I know this is the lamest example I could give but you get the point.
In this case, “What is blogging” will remain same for a large part of this century. I can create this content and keep it up to date for search engines to rank it. I can optimize for all the keywords I get impressions for (my favorite strategy).
Of course, in the beginning I’d rank 50th, slowly improving the content, optimizing & promoting across the web, I can show up on page #1.
Driving traffic to your blog & basic understanding of SEO
There are over 1 billion blogs active right now, that’s 1 blog for every 7 people. Over 58% of the human population is online continuously searching for solutions to their problems. Google gets over 5.5 billion searches every single day and it indexes 130 trillion pages every year.
Amidst this noise, it’s highly competitive to get traffic to your blog. However, there’s a very small percentage of blogs that do things right.
That’s the reason why there are millions of search results for a single of billions of searches.
To rank your blog you need to do SEO really well and to do that, you need to understand how a search engine works. So let me show you that.
There are three main components of a search engine:
1. Web Crawler
This unit is also called web spider or crawl bot or simply bot. The primary job of a bot is to discover new webpages and understand the content of that webpage.
The bots have evolved from being a stupid piece of code who’d consider a webpage as highly relevant based on the number of times particular keywords appear on that webpage.
Keyword stuffing is no more a thing. Google is way past this thing.
So if you’re planning to stuff keywords in your blog post you can either expect to remain undiscovered or get banned by Google.
The bot stores it’s discovering in a huge database called the knowledge graph. It’s simply a database where the crawled webpage is broken down into logical chunks so that at the time of indexing, these broken chunks would be potent enough to rank that webpage individually.
The bot crawls all the webpages it can find and keeps adding new discoveries to the knowledge graph.
2. Search Index/Knowledge Graph
The search index is a database that stores the information about the discovered webpages and organizes based on a lot of qualifications.
The only job of knowledge graph is to store the information and retrieve it when asked by the algorithm, which is the most important element of the search engine.
3. The Algorithm
The secret sauce of all search engines. It’s the algorithm that does the heaviest lifting of all. While the web crawler is busy crawling more webpages, the algorithm is busy serving the search results.
When a user searches for a term, let’s say Tom Cruise. The algorithm goes to the knowledge graph and find all the document (webpage or nodes of information) and ranks it based on relevancy. The relevancy is seen in terms of ranking and that is decided by the algorithm.
Google came up with 23 million relevant search results in a matter of 0.66 seconds. Not all the results will be relevant since we have searched for a person (yes, Google knows this) all the search results will have at least one mention of the term “Tom Cruise”.
The relevancy decreases as we go deeper into the search results. In fact, Google still doesn’t have efficiency on page one for complex search terms.
There are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses in order to rank a webpage on the SERPs. Of course, not all 200 will come into action every time.
Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about all 200. Instead, you can practice & implement a handful of ranking factors which are the root of the remaining ranking factors.
Top ranking factors for your blog
#1 SSL Certificate
Google has made it official that an SSL is required to qualify to rank on top SERPs. Another way round, you can search for anything and check all the top search results, you will find an SSL certificate.
If you don’t already know, an SSL certificate is a secure connection that establishes between the website and the server. This means nothing can trespass the website in case you transmit any information via that website.
You can identify a secure website by checking the padlock on the left of the page URL as shown below.
#2 Page speed
More than 50% of searches are coming from mobile and Google doesn’t want to serve a slow loading page to its users. Sure, there’s 5G and 4G becoming mainstream but it’s not the case everywhere.
Google wants to serve webpages that are responsive to mobile screens and fast loading webpages. You have 3 seconds to grab the end user’s attention. In these 3 seconds, your webpage should load and then grab their attention to further & hold engage on the page.
Page speed is one of the most significant factors for a reason.
You can use a free tool from Google named PageSpeed Insights to evaluate the speed of your blog. The tool suggests the necessary changes you can incorporate and improve speed.
However, this tool can only suggest the changes that will make a decent change, but if you really want to make a significant jump, I’d suggest you get a CDN.
CDN is a content delivery network that first saves cached files on various servers across the globe and depending on the location of your reader/user it will deliver the webpages from the nearest location.
Speed comes at a cost.
#3 Domain Age & Authority
It’s obvious. You can’t outrank Wikipedia by your blog that you started yesterday. Wikipedia is trusted by millions. Google wouldn’t replace your post just like that.
You gotta be authoritative, and authority comes with trust you build with time.
And that’s why domain age is one of the significant ranking factors. There’s a study done by Ahrefs that discusses this topic in great detail.
#4 Optimized Content
Yet another great mistake of mine. I’ve never optimized my content in the past. NEVER.
And I paid the price. The posts didn’t see the light of the day.
First, I didn’t know who the content is for. Then I had no content path that drives the readers through the post.
Optimizing content is highly important especially in times where there’s a lot of imperfect information across the web.
Furthermore, optimizing has two meaning, at least I can interpret two meanings.
First, optimizing for someone, in this case, human beings. Most bloggers fail here and create content for humans and optimize for search engines. Whereas it has to be other way round.
The second meaning is, optimizing existing content with respect to keywords. I personally do keyword research after the post is published.
I begin with topic research and come up with a post. Once published & indexed, irrespective of the rank, I gather the impressions data from Google search console, then optimize and update the content based on that data.
Next time when it gets indexed, I get impressions for even more number of keywords. This way, I keep on improving. This is a lengthy process but once you reach the top, you’re irreplaceable.
Note: Impressions is a number of times any of your webpages gets indexed for any search term irrespective of the ranking position.
#5 Technical SEO
There’s very little that meets the eye when it comes to technical SEO. But whatever there is, it’s pretty technical. If you don’t have a technical bone in you, consider a professional webmaster.
Technical SEO include:
- Schema markup
- Code optimization
- Meta tags
- Meta title & description &
- Structured data
I don’t mean to demoralize you, but if you’ve never touched code, I’d say consider a pro.
This was a little bit of the top ranking factors. Let me tell you some essentials you need to track your growth.
Setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress blog
Google Analytics is a free tool that tells you everything about your website. The traffic, the source of traffic, bounce rate, time on page, most viewed page, and a lot of such awesome stuff.
In my experience, there isn’t anything that Google Analytics can’t tell about your blog. The best part is, this tool is totally free. Here’s how you can set up Google Analytics for your blog.
Setting up Google Search Console
Monetizing your blog
I know it’s too early to talk about this but you should have some clarity. I mean, that why you’re here. There’s nothing wrong with having money as motivation but don’t have it as primary.
Out of many ways, some of the prominent ways is to have Google Adsense, Affiliate links, & sponsored posts. You can start monetizing right away with Google Adsense, but Google has beginner’s guidelines that you should abide by.
Google has laid basic requirements as follows:
- The blog must be 6 months old or
- The blog should have 30 posts
No matter how much heavy monetization you imply, how much you earn depends on your traffic. Your earning is an average of the traffic.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Are blogs still profitable in 2020?
Blogs are more profitable than ever. More and more people are getting online and searching for solutions. Remember, they’re new to the internet, they’d have an ocean of questions that needs answers.
How do I start a blog for free?
If you don’t have anything to invest or want to start blog with no money, you can begin blogging on Quora & medium, both are free. Once you start building traction you can invest a bit on setting up the self-hosted blog.
How do bloggers get paid?
There are a lot of ways you can monetize your blogs like Google Adsense, Affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and more.
How much does it cost to start a blog?
Starting from $100 it can reach anywhere around thousands of dollars, depending on the features you add.
How do I get my blog noticed?
Apart from conventional methods like SEO and social media, you can use unconventional methods like podcasts & guest posting.
What type of bloggers makes the most money?
There’s nothing set the flow to answer this question. Anyone who takes the business seriously, does all the basics right like reaching the right audience & making the right pitch can make a hell lot of money.
Why do most blogs fail?
One of the reasons why most blogs fail is that they blog for money. When they begin blogging with money in mind, they try blogging about a certain niche for the short term and fail to make money. Then they switch again and again looking for money.
Blogging is like any other profession where you learn, apply consistently for years, and then finally make a profit.
So the biggest reason why blogs fail is inconsistency.
How to start a blog in Hindi? (or any other language)
Blogging is possible technically in any language. Since there are people searching in the native language, this gives you margin to blog in that language. First, find if people are actually searching in the native language or use a translated version and then start blogging.
This guide (almost 9000 words) is overwhelming. I understand. But this has everything I have learned and taught those who want to start their own blog.
I had no one to teach this initially. Maybe I have missed a thing or two, but I will keep this post up to date.
To summarize, this is how you can start a blog:
- Register a domain
- Buy a web hosting
- Install & Setup wordpress
- Write your blog post with SEO basics intact
- Promote it across the web
I’m certain this guide has helped answer a lot of question beginners might have. I appreciate you presence if you’ve made this far. Please share this post with those who want to start a blog but don’t know where to begin.